I interviewed McKenna in a house in Hamsptead belonging to Rupert Sheldrake. He was the fastest-talking person I have ever met and – unlike Timothy Leary – did not appear to have suffered any mental degeneration as a result of his massive ingestion of drugs.
Later, I saw him guru-like on stage in a night club, surrounded by fans sitting cross-legged and listening intently to his psychedelic message.
He was very generous and gave me lots of collaborative CDs he’d made with various bands and individual musicians.
I wish he could report back from the after-life…
In bed with Susan de Muth: Life is a waking psychedelic dream: Terence McKenna
SUSAN DE MUTH
Wednesday, 18 May 1994
On six very special nights a year I unplug the telephone, lock the front door, turn off the lights, get into bed and, alone in silent darkness, take a huge amount – an heroic dose – of psilocybin mushrooms.
For me this is not an hedonic activity. My mind-brain system is a laboratory where I explore the great mystery of life. The boundaries that define the waking world are dissolved. I become a psychonaut of inner-space, entering complex experiences beyond language, bizarre yet beautiful landscapes never seen before. People who say that adventure has fled from modern life have no idea what is going on]
After about four hours I get up, exhausted, and make myself something to eat. Then I fall into a deep sleep, way beyond normal dreaming, and wake with memories and data that will keep me inspired for weeks.
For a few days after these ‘trips’ my dream-life is diminished. Dreaming releases a kind of pressure in the unconscious that has been thoroughly removed during the psychedelic experience to which I believe it is closely related. Small quantities of DMT (dimethyltryptamine, a naturally occurring, powerful hallucinogen) are produced in the human body, peaking between 3 and 4am, when rapid eye movement sleep is at its height.
Normal dreams are not a disappointment to me. I’m fascinated by all kinds of mental activity, including those day- residue dreams where you’ve forgotten to buy the milk . . . and nightmares, too. I take them seriously enough to have kept a dream journal for 20 years. Each night we are trying to rediscover something we find and lose every 24 hours: when we dream we are plunged into some primordial pool of imagery.
I often dream of places I haven’t been: a futuristic city I call Hong- Kong Morocco; Tasmania. There are also hundreds of strangers in my dreams to whom I relate as if I know them. This is very much like my life: I meet so many people since I’ve become some kind of minor icon on the underground scene that I’m often in situations where I vaguely recognise someone but have no idea who they are.
I don’t have any trouble sleeping, which is a shame because I’m thrilled by the prospect of insomnia. I once went for nine days and nights without sleep in the Amazonian jungle and found it an ecstatic experience. At night I’d walk deep into the jungle or sit somewhere and just contemplate: I found I could follow four or five trains of thought simultaneously and never lose the thread.
I have never been scared in the night, even if I have an alarming psychedelic experience. When we were children my mother used to put us to bed and say, ‘now you’re going into the friendly darkness’ and I have always seen it that way. I have a house in Hawaii and I love the nights there. It is always warm enough to walk out and star-gaze. Then there is time for thinking – my greatest passion.
I am very reclusive and unsociable. My idea of a great evening is a 200- year-old book and a snifter of brandy. I recently divorced after 15 years of marriage and enjoy being alone, yet I end up at a surprising number of parties. This new youth culture that’s arising has a nostalgia for the Sixties and looks to people like me for direction.
I don’t envisage giving up drugs at any point. The older I get, the more like a psychedelic waking dream everyday life appears to me.
Terence McKenna’s latest book, ‘True Hallucinations’, is published by Rider Books at pounds 14.99. A new CD, ‘Dream Matrix Telemetry’, is available on Delerium records.
Terence McKenna 47, is an ‘ethnobotanist and psychedelic philosopher’. He lives in northern California, where he writes books, gives lectures and makes records about his experiences with hallucinogenic drugs.